Last week’s announcement that Marvel had finally found an actor to portray the first ever live-action version of Cable did not go down as well as the company had hoped. Ever since THAT post-credits scene in ‘Deadpool’, the internet had been absolutely saturated with speculation about who would end up playing the time-travelling warrior, with a wide range of names rumoured to be in contention. Kevin Nash. Michael Shannon. Pierce Brosnan. Kiera Knightley…
So when the company finally revealed that in fact it was in fact Josh Brolin who had bagged the role, the online buzz stopped. A little too quickly. You see, it seems fans felt a little wronged with the selection of an actor already playing a current, and major character in the franchise. There were so many good actors out there who people wanted to see given a chance. Why the guy who already plays Thanos? What sense did this make?
Now, whilst I sat back, surveying this orgy of verbal destruction, the various abusive and confused comments from fanboys got me to thinking. How odd is it for someone to play two unrelated Marvel characters? My thoughts turned to a similar situation last year when Alfre Woodward portrayed two very different characters in both ‘Civil War’ and ‘Luke Cage’. And then I discovered that Benedict Cumberbatch had played Dormammu as well as the title character in ‘Doctor Strange’. So, if anything, it appears to be a developing trend rather, than an isolated or unusual happening…
Googling ‘Actors who’ve portrayed multiple Marvel roles’ produced a couple of articles by other writers, with about 9 or 10 candidates featured on each list. Given the lengthy passage of time since Marvel started making movies, and just how many franchises and TV shows/films their characters are spread across, this struck me as a worryingly small figure. So I decided to do my own research, and quickly regretted it.
Going back as far as ‘Howard The Duck’, and encompassing all the different shows and films, I spent a stupidly large amount of time, but eventually managed to find 30 actors/actresses who have cropped up in more than one Marvel role.
Now that figure is nothing compared to how many actors have played both DC and Marvel characters, you’re looking at heading up north of a hundred for that. But that’s an article for another day, and will probably take somewhere near a month to research given the number of TV shows DC have managed to come up with.
You see, it seems that there’s a significant body of actors who have had minor roles in early comic book offerings when they were younger, but come back with bigger roles as their fame has increased. At the same time, there’s a larger body of hard-working supporting actors, who are more than happy to take any role going in any franchise, regardless of loyalty or wether they’ve appeared in it before.
So, let’s take a look at the 30 I managed to find. It’s most likely not an exhaustive list, but I’ve tried to avoid people who’ve lent their voices to animated features, or where their supporting roles had little or no significant dialogue. Oh, and before I hear you scream “STAN LEE!?!”, he’s also out. He’s either playing idealized versions of himself, or a live-action version of The Watcher. Either way, it’s the same character, not different ones. If there are omissions, feel free to comment and add them. They’ll break up the abusive comments that nearly always crop up when I write an article for this site. Goddamn keyboard-warrior fanboys…
Our first entry on the list seems to have become somewhat of a ‘go-to’ guy for Marvel when looking for a male actor to portray the part of a ‘Brooding Eastern European Hoodlum’ in their products. Vadim not only played legendary Punisher adversary Christu Bulat back in ‘Punisher: Warzone’, but also went on to star as another heavily accented gangster in Season 1 of ‘Daredevil’.
This physically imposing Welsh actor has made a career for himself hidden underneath thick prosthetics or CGI, most recently playing Darth Vader in ‘Rogue One’. His MCU debut came as one of the prison inmates in GOTG, but he’d already popped his Marvel cherry prior to this by playing a gangland enforcer in ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance’.
Lingering for the briefest of moments on the shores of the UK, Scouse actor Daz Crawford should be instantly recognisable to Marvel fans as one of the doomed vampire Blood-Pack from ‘Blade 2’. He also returned to the franchise last year to play Grant Ward’s HYDRA Deputy in several episodes of ‘Agents Of SHIELD’.
Veteran actor McRobbie has recently appeared on your TV screens in a recurring capacity playing Matt Murdock’s long-suffering confidante and priest in ‘Daredevil’. It’s not his first Marvel role though, as eagle-eyed Marvel fans will recognise him as being a member of the Oscorp board in the original Spider-Man trilogy.
Leung has been lucky enough to bag the role as one of the most notorious Inhumans ever to grace the pages of a Marvel comic, as he has been cast as Karnak in the forthcoming ‘Inhumans’ TV show. He’s also already managed to play a mutant as well though, having portrayed Kid Omega, one of Magneto’s Brotherhood back in ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’.
Poor old Olek Krupa. Despite being born in Poland, he’s spent his entire acting career in the US typically playing a variety of Russian gangsters or military officers. This was certainly the case back in ‘X-Men: First Class’, where he narrowly avoided nuclear Armageddon as the captain of a soviet cruiser. His recent appearance in ‘Iron Fist’, however, saw him cast as an unfortunate scientist, blackmailed into the service of The Hand.
Screen Legend Ray Wise possesses one of the most recognizable appearances onscreen, and has lent his distinctive face and voice to characters across a host of genres as franchises. His Marvel entries include the Secretary of State in ‘X Men: First Class’, and also a greasy politician in the short-lived ‘Agent Carter’.
You’d be forgiven for not having recognized British actress Laura Haddock from her two Marvel appearances, even though she does have the rare distinction of them both being in MCU entries. She cropped up alongside Dr Who actress Jenna Coleman in the first ‘Captain America’ film as a date for Steve and Bucky, and also starred as Peter Quill’s dying mother at the start of GOTG.
Did you find yourself back in 2008 watching the first ‘Iron Man’ movie and thinking to yourself, “I’m sure I recognise that USAF Officer from somewhere?” I know I did, because I’m sad like that… Well, you would have been right. Tim Guinee also played a dochebag doctor turned vampire back in ‘Blade’.
Actor Will Yun Lee has managed to amass a somewhat impressive CV of film and television work, and portrayed Logan’s conflicted ally Harada in ‘The Wolverine’. He’d also already played a far less heroic role back in the largely forgotten ‘Elektra’ movie, playing the film’s primary antagonist.
Returning to ‘Agent Carter’, principal cast member Gjokaj played Peggy’s ‘will she/won’t she’ love interest Agent Daniel Sousa. Interestingly though, if you IMDB him, that’s not his biggest listed role. He also had a ‘blink and you’ll miss him’ cameo as a cop in ‘Avengers Assemble’ during the battle of NY, in the scene where Cap rallies the local Police Department.
Now, as if the Russo Brothers didn’t have enough to do, having taken the reigns from Joss Whedon to guide the MCU into ‘Infinity War’, Joe Russo also seems to enjoy providing a cheeky Hitchcockian cameo in each of their movies.
He plays the doctor who saves Nick Fury in ‘Winter Soldier’, as well as the Doctor murdered by Zemo in ‘Civil War’. We look forward to him completing his hat-trick, and moving up this list with the arrival of ‘Infinity War’, where he presumably plays ‘Alien Doctor killed by Thanos’…
Another actor who has traditionally struggled to break free from dodgy ethnic stereotyping, Ken Choi has managed to move away from being cast in various ‘Asian Gangster’ roles, and has bagged two very different characters within the MCU.
He played Howling Commando Jim Morita in ‘The First Avenger’ as well as ‘Agents Of SHIELD’, and has also been announced to star as Peter Parker’s High School principal in the upcoming ‘Homecoming’.
As the Chinese film market continues to expand exponentially, Hollywood is increasingly having to adapt the ways in which they film and market their movies, in order to cater for this growing and restrictive audience base.
One of the ways round this is to film specific Chinese-themed cut scenes for their movies, which western audiences don’t traditionally get to see. BingBing Fan finds herself on the list having featured in just such a scene in ‘Iron Man 3’, as well as playing Blink in ‘Days Of Future Past’.
Look, I know you don’t want to talk about THAT Fantastic Four reimagining, but for the purposes of this list we’re bloody well going to. Mara headlined the ill-fated reboot as Sue Storm, which represented her second appearance in a Marvel movie, as she’d already played the US Marshal who subpoenas Tony at the start of ‘Iron Man 2’.
If we were adhering strictly to the rules of this list, Oswalt would be a lot higher up the pecking order, having already portrayed several of the Koenig brothers on ‘Agents Of SHIELD’. But, for all we know they’re clones, as their background has never truly been explained. He does however still qualify, having also featured in ‘Blade: Trinity’ as one of Dracula’s ill-fated opponents.
Back to that FF reboot again (we won’t do it much more, we promise), where Tim Blake Nelson made an appearance as Doctor Allen. Which made Marvel fans angry. Well, angrier. Because Nelson had also played Samuel Sterns back in ‘The Incredible Hulk’, and had last been witnessed morphing into iconic Marvel villain, The Leader. Now that’s what the fans wanted to see…
Yes, she’s not only portrayed a character that can morph into anybody else, but she’s starred as Mystique across both X-Men timelines; as well as J-Law also playing the part. But people forget that the first Marvel character that Romijn (Stamos) played was in fact Frank Castle’s neighbour Joan back in ‘The Punisher’. And she’s not the only repeat performer who’s done that, either…
Joan and Frank’s other comedy neighbour, the delightfully named ‘Spacker Dave’, was played by a young Ben Foster. Most memorable for watching his facial piercings being pulled out with pliers, Foster also makes it into the list for playing the original version of Warren Worthington, AKA: ‘Angel’ in ‘The Last Stand’.
Having received a high level of exposure during her recent divisive portrayal of Psylocke, Munn makes it onto the list as she had already made her her debut over in the MCU well prior to ‘X Men: Apocalypse’. You’d have to be a bit of a nerd to know it, but she originally played news reporter Chess Roberts in the Iron Man trilogy.
So here we are then. The Top 10. The big guns. And what better way to start it than with Happy Hogan himself, Jon Favreau. Few have done more to contribute to the success of the MCU than writer/director/actor Favreau, and as well his many appearances as Tony Stark’s Downton Abbey loving bodyguard, he also played the original Foggy Nelson alongside Ben Affleck’s Daredevil.
Martial Arts supremo Scott Adkins once auditioned for the part of Batman, losing out to fellow Brit Christian Bale. This year he made his MCU debut in ‘Doctor Strange’, playing Lucius. He’s the fella who has his head kicked in by the cloak, before having an almighty astral ruck with Steven Strange in hospital. But not many people know that Adkins actually portrayed the original Deadpool, standing in for Ryan Reynolds at the end of ‘Wolverine: Origins’ to play the newly augmented version of Wade Wilson.
A journeyman actor with close to 150 screen credits to his name, Colm Feore is in the heavyweight division of the ‘what else have I seen him in?’ class of actor. Well, in addition to having played the odious head of Oscorp in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’, Feore also starred as another villain, the ill-fated Laufey, the King of the Frost Giants in ‘Thor’.
This venerable old man of the acting world was given big roles in two massive pre-MCU Marvel movies, both of which were rebooted rather than being given direct sequels. Prior to William Hurt taking the role from him, he was the first Thunderbolt Ross, and was also cast as the very first Ghost Rider in the Nic Cage version. Which I think more than earns him opportunity to complete his hat-trick with Marvel finding a new role for him within the MCU.
For our (thankfully) final trip in the FF reboot, we find Michael B Jordan playing Sue’s brother Johnny Storm. Well, much like Kate Mara, he’s also been given the opportunity to show what he can do in the MCU, and will be appearing in the forthcoming ‘Black Panther’ movie as villainous Erik Killmonger.
Right, into the Top 5, and it’s appropriate to find Idris Elba sat at the number 5 slot. He recently set the internet ablaze when he featured in THAT ‘Thor 3’ trailer as Heimdall, which will be his fifth outing as the character. However, the same year that he first portrayed the legendary Asgardian, he also cropped up in ‘Spirit Of Vengeance’ as the drunken Holy Man, Moreau.
Sticking with Asgardians, you’ll notice Ray Stevenson portraying Volstagg, the most outgoing and comedic of the Warriors Three. Which is in sharp contrast to his pervious Marvel outing, where he played the far more introverted Frank Castle in ‘Punisher: Warzone’.
Few actors have ever shown a love for the comic book genre as Ryan Reynolds. In addition to playing Hal Jordan over in the DCU, he’s also starred as two different versions of Deadpool for Marvel, both the new incarnation and also the one shown in ‘Wolverine: Origins’. But that’s not why he’s on this list, he also reports for duty in ‘Blade: Trinity’ as the wise-cracking monster hunter Hannibal Kane.
So near, and yet so far for the current Captain America. Rumored to be hanging up his shield in the aftermath of ‘Infinity War’, Evans played the original Johnny Storm in both Fantastic Four movies, before handing the baton to Michael B. Jordan, who we’ve also already encountered. It’s all a bit incestuous, if you ask me…
So, who could possibly have kept Captain America off the top slot? Which actor/actress has had more different appearances in Marvel movies than any other? Scottish actor Tony Curran, that’s who. Another big name in the ‘where have I seen him before?’ category, Curran and his distinctive ginger mane have made appearances in ‘Gladiator’, ‘Pearl Harbour’ and the ‘Underworld’ franchise.
But he also has a whopping FOUR Marvel credits to his name, having appeared as a vampire in ‘Blade 2’, Thor’s grandad in ‘Thor 2’, a CIA spook in ‘First Class’, and most recently as the rougish Finn Cooley in ‘Daredevil’. And, whilst that role was cut short by a shotgun blast to the face, he isn’t meant to be a pretty character, so expect to see Curran back in the MCU quite soon.